Basalt keeps ‘tight’ grip on growth
BASALT The Basalt planning commission voted, 4-2, Tuesday night to draw a growth boundary around the town, snuffing development chances for a popular affordable housing project near the high school.The commission decided not to adjust the urban growth boundary – the area deemed appropriate for growth – to accommodate a project called Sopris Chase. Developer David Fiore and the housing division of Catholic Charities wanted to build 60 low-income rental apartments on a site just downvalley from Basalt High School. Fiore’s firm, Western Peak, proposed another 55 residences, at least 27 of which would be affordable housing.Sopris Chase had a lot of support from midvalley residents. It would have provided replacement housing for residents of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park.The Basalt Town Council and majority of the planning commission wanted to preserve open space and the rural buffer by the high school rather than allow Sopris Chase. The planning commission upheld the urban growth boundary Tuesday night while reviewing an update of Basalt’s land use master plan – a document that will guide growth for the next five to 10 years.Commission members Bernie Grauer, Brian Davies and Bill Maron said they would prefer to allow flexibility in the urban growth boundary but feared that the council would reject the master plan if the plan allowed that boundary wasn’t rigid.”That would mean throwing in the trash two years of hard work,” Grauer said, adding that the master plan covers too many critical topics to sacrifice it for one important issue.Maron agreed that the master plan could help Basalt survive growth pressures that are plaguing resorts throughout the West.”Once community is gone, it’s gone,” he said. “We’re at the point where it’s leaving.”The master plan gives Basalt a chance to preserve its sense of community, Maron said.Brian Dillard joined them in support of the “tight” urban growth boundary. The majority members felt there are enough opportunities to build affordable housing, including replacement housing for trailer park residents, within the town’s existing boundary.Commission members Gary Wheeler and Able Liston favored flexibility so the town could consider projects that offer substantial community benefits.”I think it’s a ridiculous thing to do, to take away options,” Liston said, noting that relocating residents of two trailer parks from the threat of a flood has been a prime town goal for years.Wheeler said setting a rigid boundary will alter the real estate market.”Prices of real estate within that boundary are going to skyrocket,” he said. That will make it difficult to build affordable housing within the urban growth boundary.Ironically, Basalt officials have labeled the urban growth boundary “tight” and “rigid,” even though it has been adjusted enough to allow about 1,000 more residences than the last master plan, crafted in 1999. While the town officials wouldn’t adjust the boundary to allow Fiore’s 115-unit project, they redrew the boundary to include part of Ace Lane’s property across Highway 82 from Willits and the El Jebel City Market. The town master plan, as proposed, would allow 430 residences on 80 acres of Lane’s property. That would nearly match residences at Willits.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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